We are happy to welcome guest celebrity blogger Jason Danieley, who is currently starring opposite wife Marin Mazzie in the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical Next to Normal. The singing actor, who has also appeared on Broadway in Curtains, Candide and The Full Monty, will blog for Playbill.com all week; his third entry follows.
I woke up this morning [Sept. 11, 2010] thinking of New York. A bright, beautiful New York and at the same time a battered and bruised New York. I won't blog about the travesties and heartache of 9/11/01. People who were directly and profoundly affected by the day's events have written about it quite elegantly and eloquently. I count myself extremely fortunate to not have lost anyone on that day. But I was fortunate to be in New York in 2001, on Broadway, in a funny and touching show called The Full Monty . And today, nine years later, I'm in a heartbreaking and wrenchingly beautiful musical called Next to Normal. The shows couldn't be more different, but they do have something in common, and that is to play a part in the healing process of the audience in their respective years, in different ways.
The day started off in 2001 as crisp and calm as anyone could hope for in an early fall day. The minutes, hours and days that were to follow were obliterated by smoke and sadness. What can you do? Give blood and plenty of it. Wait to hear what is needed by way of assisting anywhere and everywhere in the city. But the call to arms, as it was, for the theatre community was to go back to work. We needed to get back up on the stage in order for people to have a place to go, a place to go and escape, a place to go and be entertained, and a place to go and live life, if even for a brief two-and-a half-hours.
The theatre is a wonderful place to go in times of crisis. Diversion can be a helpful device when your world, as you know it, is destroyed. The Full Monty provided a wonderful distraction for the men and women who had spent the days and weeks following the attacks in search and rescue and cleanup efforts. I was moved many times by meeting folks at the stage door after the show who said this was their first day off in, sometimes, a couple of weeks, or that they were in New York for the first time and that they were there as a volunteer at Ground Zero. Extraordinary people one and all. The show offered them a brief moment to, figuratively and literally, catch their breath. They were able to laugh — it is a funny show after all, and boy that's what some people really needed at the time.
Two nights ago, as Marin and I were signing Playbills at the stage door, a woman mentioned that she had lost a son in the World Trade Center attack. She said she is still grieving for her son and continues to have a hard time dealing with it. Next to Normal was able to supply her with a much-needed cathartic release. It is extremely gratifying to make people laugh. It is also a gift to be able to help people cry. Audience members often stand outside after the show with a smile on their face, blood-shot eyes and Kleenex in hand saying what a wonderful time they've had for a variety of reasons but mostly because they were able to feel.
Today, as the sky is as blue and the air is as crisp as it was nine years ago, I can't help but wonder how many folks in the seats at the Booth Theatre are in New York for a memorial service downtown, or attending the Fireman's memorial on Riverside Drive, who might have wandered into this Broadway show and received a release of emotions. I know that the gentleman in his mid-fifties in the third row wearing the white T-shirt with an American flag and a drawing of the World Trade Towers, a baseball cap and tears streaming down his face and who was standing before the curtain call lights even came up was feeling something.